2011 Legislature leaves businesses alone

Despite a few bumps in the road, the Legislature decides against new employment regulations
By J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largest business advocate

When the 2011 Oregon Legislature convened in January, AOI was alarmed at the possibility of several new employment regulations that had been introduced. AOI identified scores of legislation that needed to be amended or defeated altogether. We also introduced and supported some concepts we believed would be helpful to employers.

As the 2011 Oregon Legislature draws to a close, AOI is pleased to tell its members that the Oregon Legislature was dissuaded from enacting burdensome new employment regulations. Oregon companies will not have to adapt to any new legislative mandates for at least another year.

AOI’s portfolio of work in 2011 includes:

HB 2035 – BOLI “Right to sue” Statute of limitations – Currently, a BOLI “right to sue” letter creates a 90-day statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit against an employer after the alleged occurrence of an unlawful practice. HB 2035 extended the statute of limitations to one year. AOI opposed. Bill died.

HB 2036New definitions for disabled employees – The original bill lowered the standard for determining whether a person is disabled for protection under Oregon ADA. The bill appeared to trigger legal protection for insignificant mental and physical impairments. AOI was successful in deleting this new standard from the bill. HB 2036 passed as a bill that made some technical corrections for BOLI.

HB 2038 Nursing Mother Regulations – Attempted to conform Oregon’s flexible law to the more inflexible federal law. Eliminated the undue hardship exemption for all Oregon employers with 50 or more employees and broadened employer requirements to provide rest breaks. Ultimately, AOI could not support. HB 2038 died.

HB 2039Penalty for bounced paychecks – Allows BOLI to impose civil penalty against employers who issue dishonored paychecks. AOI would only support the bill if the civil penalty were in lieu of employee’s ability to recover in court. BOLI and legislature agreed to AOI’s amendment. AOI-supported version of HB 2039 passed the legislature.

HB 2040Wage demand letters – HB 2040 has several provisions, one of which stipulates that any wage demand letter must stipulate how much in wages is alleged to be owed. The bill also clarifies overtime provisions for boiler operators. AOI supported this bill. Bill passed.

HB 2041BOLI Cease & Desist Orders – HB 2041 allowed BOLI to issue temporary cease and desist orders when it has reason to believe an employer is engaging in unlawful conduct. AOI opposed. Bill died.

HB 2241Expanded definition of “uniformed services” for employment protections – Includes the United States Public Health Service and others designated by the President of the United States as those protected by Oregon employment law. AOI was OK with this bill. Bill passed.

HB 2243Attorney General Prosecution of Employment Law – This bill would have allowed the Attorney General to begin to prosecute and enforce Oregon employment laws alongside BOLI for members of the armed forces. AOI opposed. Bill died.

HB 2355Short term Disability Insurance Program – Effectively a paid family leave system, HB 2355 created a short term disability insurance program within BOLI, funded by a new tax on employees. AOI opposed. Bill died.

HB 2828 / HB 3034 – Jury Service – This package of bills aimed at improving the ability of private sector employees to serve on juries. HB 2828 prohibits employers from discontinuing health insurance benefits due to jury service. One provision of HB 3034 prohibits employers from requiring employees to use of vacation time for jury service. AOI was neutral on both bills. Both bills passed.

HB 2850 / SB 605Sibling OFLA Leave – These bills included siblings in the definition of “family member” under Oregon’s Family Leave Act (OFLA). Would have made Oregon the lone state to grant sibling leave. AOI opposed both bills. Both died.

HB 2861 – Pay Discrimination Regulation – Expanded Oregon’s gender-based pay discrimination statute to prohibit pay discrimination based on all other protected classes. Would have made Oregon the first state to turn its pay discrimination claims into essentially “no fault” claims that are valid without proof of actual discrimination. AOI opposed. Bill died.

HB 2862 – Employment Relationship with Volunteers/Interns – This bill created an employment relationship between employers and their volunteers or interns for purposes of Oregon’s workplace anti-discrimination laws. AOI could not support. Bill died.

HB 2905 – School activity leave – Creates new classification of OFLA leave; up to 18 hours for conferences with teachers and school officials to discuss academic issues. AOI opposed. Bill died.

HB 3450 – Waiting Period for Employment – HB 3450 eliminates the two-week employment waiting period that currently exists between hire and start date for employees when an arbitration agreement for workplace disputes is a condition of employment. AOI supported. Bill passed the House and is currently pending in the Senate.

HB 3482 – Job Protections for certain victims – The original bill extended leave and accommodation protections for victims of ‘harassment’ and ‘sexual harassment.’ AOI supported the inclusion of ‘harassment,’ but opposed inclusion of ‘sexual harassment.’ The legislature agreed with AOI. The bill was limited to include protections for victims of ‘criminal harassment,’ and it is likely the bill will pass.

SB 2 – Veterans Day holiday for all Veterans – This bill mandated a Veterans Day Holiday for all private sector veterans. Under the bill, private sector employers were required to give veterans the day off on Veterans Day, or a day off in lieu of Veterans Day. In the end, AOI could not support the bill. The bill passed the Senate but did not pass the House.

SB 506 – OFLA Bereavement Leave – Added unpaid bereavement leave as protected form of leave under Oregon’s family leave act (OFLA). Would have made Oregon the first state to grant this leave under family leave law. Although the bill did pass in the Senate, it ultimately died in the House.

SB 610 / HB 2833 – Staffing Agency Regulation – This legislation put onerous restriction on staffing and temp agencies. These new, one-of-a-kind regulations, including pay and benefit equity, would have diminished these companies in Oregon. AOI opposed both bills. Both died.

SB 611 / HB 2834 – Definition of “Employer” – This legislation would have expanded the definition of “employer” to include any HR professional, payroll manager, or outside counsel or consultant for the purpose of establishing liability for wage claim lawsuits. AOI opposed both bills. Both died.

SB 624 / HB 2837 – Allowed liens against employers for alleged unpaid wages – These two bills allowed for liens against employers real and personal property for alleged unpaid wages with no substantiation necessary. AOI opposed. Both bills died.

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